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Why is economic news always interpreted as bad news?

I just read an article on how awful it is for the US that oil prices are dropping. To be fair, this article is much more even-handed that the normal “sky is falling” stuff that I am accustomed to seeing. But it still brings to mind a question for me: “Why is US economic news always bad?”

Now, perhaps this is a worldwide phenomenon, but I live in the US, so I will restrict my commentary to what I know. I am no expert on the economy–far from it. But I have noticed an increasing negativity on all economic news. No matter what happens, we find a way to make it sound bad. Lower oil prices is just one example, but you’ll spot them yourself if you pay attention.

Sometimes these are big stories: China is growing so fast that they are going to be larger and more powerful than the United States. Oh, and they are bidding up the prices of all natural resources.

But what happens when China’s economy slows? That’s bad news, too, because the US is so dependent on this growing market for our exports.

It could be small stuff. Huge snowfalls? Awful drain on the strained resources of local governments for snow clearing and terrible economic costs of business closures.

No snowfall? Oh, those poor ski resorts and surrounding towns that rely on the tourism industry!

Or how about the crushing debt that US consumers carry around that will wreck our economy? In the last couple of years, US consumer savings rates have actually increased, which, of course, is awful because it will lead to recession because our economy depends on consumer spending.

After a while, I can write these stories myself. No matter what happens in economics, there are inevitably winners and losers. Nothing can possibly be universally bad. If you think in these extremes, maybe you should take a couple of hours to watch The Big Short. Even the worst disaster leaves some winners.

The reason that I bring this up is that my clients are affected by all this negative talk. I believe that the news media and pundits know that bad news gets more attention from us, which is good for their businesses. I just don’t think it is good for yours. This constant negativity makes us fearful and passive–we don’t aggressively move after opportunities. Instead, we hunker down until the crisis passes–but there is always a new crisis in this storm of negativity. No matter what happens, we can catastrophize it.

Instead of waiting for good news, maybe we can resign ourselves to the fact that the economy is volatile–and it always will be. So, instead of committing ourselves to huge projects for which there is no turning back, in marketing, at least, we can be more agile and respond to changing conditions. We can always have a Plan B and a Plan C.

We can sit around lamenting the way things are, and treat every change in conditions as a potential problem, or we can decide that volatility is normal and that we need to be ready to zig when the economy zags. Which do you think will work better?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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